Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:34 PM GMT on July 26, 2010

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"Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity" is NASA climate change scientist Dr. James Hansen's first book. Dr. Hansen is arguably the most visible and well-respected climate change scientist in the world, and has headed the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Dr. Hansen greatly raised awareness of the threat of global warming during his Congressional testimony during the record hot summer of 1988, and issued one of the first-ever climate model predictions of global warming (see an analysis here to see how his 1988 prediction did.) In 2009, Dr. Hansen was awarded the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society, for his "outstanding contributions to climate modeling, understanding climate change forcings and sensitivity, and for clear communication of climate science in the public arena."

Storms of My Grandchildren focuses on the key concepts of the science of climate change, told through Hansen's personal experiences as a key player in field's scientific advancements and political dramas over the past 40 years. Dr. Hansen's writing style is very straight-forward and understandable, and he clearly explains the scientific concepts involved in a friendly way that anyone with a high school level science education can understand. I did not find any scientific errors in his book. However, some of his explanations are too long-winded, and the book is probably too long, at 274 pages. Nevertheless, Storms of My Grandchildren is a must-read, due to the importance of the subject matter and who is writing it. Hansen is not a fancy writer. He comes across as a plain Iowan who happened to stumble into the field of climate change and discovered things he had to speak out about. And he does plenty of speaking out in his book.

James Hansen vs. Richard Lindzen
Dr. Hansen's book opens with an interesting chapter on his participation in four meetings of Vice President Dick Cheney's cabinet-level Climate Task Force in 2001. It seems that the Bush Administration was prepared to let Dr. Hansen's views on climate change influence policy. However, Dr. Richard Lindzen, whom Hansen describes as "the dean of of global warming contrarians", was also present at the meetings. Dr.Lindzen was able to confuse the task force members enough so that they never took Dr. Hansen's views seriously. Hansen observes that "U.S. policies regarding carbon dioxide during the Bush-Cheney administration seem to have been based on, or at a minimum, congruent with, Lindzen's perspective." Hansen asserts that Lindzen was able to do this by acting more like a lawyer than a scientist: "He and other contrarians tend to act like lawyers defending a client, presenting only arguments that favor their client. This is in direct contradiction to...the scientific method." Hansen also comments that he asked Lindzen what he thought of the link between smoking and cancer, since Lindzen had been a witness for the tobacco industry decades earlier. Lindzen "began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data."

Alarmism
Global warming contrarians often dismiss scientists such a Dr. Hansen as "alarmists" who concoct fearsome stories about climate change in order to get research funding. Dr. Lindzen made this accusation at Cheney's Climate Task Force in 2001. However, Dr. Hansen notes that "in 1981 I lost funding for research on the climate effects of carbon dioxide because the Energy Department was displeased with a paper, 'Climate Impact of Increasing Carbon Dioxide,' I had published in Science magazine. The paper made a number of predictions for the 21st century, including 'opening of the fabled Northwest Passage', which the Energy Department considered to be alarmist but which have since proven to be accurate." If you read Dr. Hansen's book and listen to his lectures, it is clear that he is not an alarmist out to get more research funding by hyping the dangers of global warming. Hansen says in his book that "my basic nature nature is very placid, even comfortably stolid", and that nature comes through very clearly in Storms of My Grandchildren. Hansen's writings express a quiet determination to plainly set forth the scientific truth on climate change. He has surprisingly few angry words towards the politicians, lobbyists, and scientists intent on distorting the scientific truth.

The science of climate change
The bulk of Storms of My Grandchildren is devoted to explanations of the science of climate change. Hansen's greatest concern is disintegration of the gerat ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica causing sea level rise: "Once the ice sheets begin to rapidly disintegrate, sea level would be continuously changing for centuries. Coastal cities would become impractical to maintain." Hansen is concerned that evidence from past climate periods show that the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica can melt quickly, with large changes within a century. For example, sea level at the end of the most recent Ice Age, 13,000 - 14,000 years ago, rose at a rate of 3 - 5 meters (10 - 17 feet) per century for several centuries. Hansen is convinced that just a 1.7 -2°C warming, which would likely result if we stabilize CO2 at 450 ppm, would be a "disaster scenario" that would trigger rapid disintegration of the ice sheets and disastrous rises in sea level. Hansen advocates stabilizing CO2 at 350 ppm (we are currently at 390 ppm, with a rate of increase of 2 ppm per year.)

Another of Hansen's main concerns is the extinction of species. He notes that studies of more than 1,000 species of plants, animals, and insects have found an average migration rate towards the poles due to climate warming in the last half of the 20th century to be four miles per decade. "That is not fast enough. During the past thirty years the lines marking the regions in which a given average temperature prevails (isotherms) have been moving poleward at a rate of about thirty-five miles per decade. If greenhouse gases continue to increase at business-as-usual rates, then the rate of isotherm movement will double in this century to at least seventy miles per decade."

Hansen's other main concern is the release of large amounts of methane gas stored in sea-floor sediments in the form of methane hydrates. If ocean temperatures warm according to predictions, the higher temperatures at the sea floor may be enough to destabilize the methane hydrate sediments and release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 - 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Solutions to the climate change problem
Dr. Hansen is a controversial figure, since he has stepped outside his field of expertise and become an activist in promoting solutions to the climate change problem. He devotes a chapter called "An Honest, Effective Path" in the book to this. His main theme is that we need to tax fossil fuels using a "fee-and-dividend" approach. All of the tax money collected would be distributed uniformly to the public. This carbon tax would gradually rise, giving people time to adjust their lifestyle, choice of vehicle, home insulation, etc. Those who do better at reducing their fossil fuel use will receive more in the dividend than they will pay in the added costs of the products they buy. The approach is straightforward and does not require a large bureaucracy, but currently has little political support. Hansen is vehemently opposed to the approach that has the most political support, "Cap-and-trade": "Cap-and-trade is what governments and the people in alligator shoes (the lobbyists for special interests) are trying to foist on you. Whoops. As an objective scientist I should delete such personal opinions, to at least flag them. But I am sixty-eight years old, and I am fed up with the way things work in Washington." Hansen also promotes an overlooked type of nuclear power, "fast" reactors with liquid metal coolant that produce far less nuclear waste and are much more efficient than conventional nuclear reactors.

Quotes from the book
"Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger--unaware how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise."

"In order for a democracy to function well, the public needs to be honestly informed. But the undue influence of special interests and government greenwash pose formidable barriers to a well-informed public. Without a well-informed public, humanity itself and all species on the planet are threatened."

"Of course by 2005 I was well aware that the NASA Office of Public Affairs had become an office of propaganda. In 2004, I learned that NASA press releases related to global warming were sent to the White House, where they were edited to appear less serious or discarded entirely."

"If we let special interests rule, my grandchildren and yours will pay the price."

"The role of money in our capitals is the biggest problem for democracy and for the planet."

"The problem with asking people to pledge to reduce their fossil fuel use is that even if lots of people do, one effect is reduced demand for fossil fuel and thus a lower price--making it easier for someone else to burn...it is necessary for people to reduce their emissions, but it is not sufficient if the government does not adopt policies that cause much of the fossil fuels to be left in the ground permanently."

"I have argued that it is time to 'draw a line in the sand' and demand no new coal plants."

"The present situation is analogous to that faced by Lincoln with slavery and Churchill with Nazism--the time for compromises and appeasement is over."

"Humans are beginning to hammer the climate system with a forcing more than an order of magnitude more powerful than the forcings that nature employed."

"Once ice sheet disintegration begins in earnest, our grandchildren will live the rest of their lives in a chaotic transition period."

"After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I've come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty."

"One suggestion I have for now: Support Bill McKibben and his organization 350.org. It is the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice."

Commentary
James Hansen understands the Earth's climate as well as any person alive, and his concern about where our climate is headed makes Storms of My Grandchildren a must-read for everyone who cares about the world their grandchildren will inherit. Storms of My Grandchildren retails for $16.50 at Amazon.com. Dr. Hansen's web site is http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting reedzone:


I'm a hardcore conservative Christian, I can't stand all the democratic convos in here..


I'm with you on that Reed
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Anyways, back to the weather.. Is there any models picking up the disturbance next to the Carolinas.. a perfect place for development this time of year.
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Quoting StormW:


That's not my point...we are never going to be "totally" free from oil, unless the "brains" come up with alternatives for lubrication, paint products, plastics, etc.


i think my momma could cure cancer withn turpentine
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Quoting Jeff9641:
This blog is very democratic I tell you. So many try to jam GW talk down our throat. No matter what anyone's reasoning is we will still need oil.


I'm a hardcore conservative Christian, I can't stand all the democratic convos in here..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1075. Patrap
The warming has stopped..and the Co2 and Coal emissions from Fossil Fuel Burning is over..

Well..diddly doo dah.

Wheres da data on that?

I guess the post alone solved it ,eh?

LOL..pffftthhh.

There is never any data to support somes view, yet they cackle like chickens to slaughter seems.

Inhofe and Boehner would be proud of yas.

Tanning booth anyone?
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Quoting Patrap:
Most who cant fathom or understand the dilemma we face ,,will tend to trend towards dismissing what they cant understand..nor choose to.



We can continue to ruin the Biosphere,,and Fla who want not to see Rigs from their coastline,but they still want them Fossil Fuel SUV's to bring dem pink lil Families to their beaches in them.

So when the next well washes oil up on yer Sugar Beaches.


Don't Whine,...




Remember..the choice is ours to make.

Old men and Oil..are well in control.

Not Gubments nor Countries who assume they are.


There ya go.

Everyone gets heard.
Then make up your own mind.
No one makes it for you.
Democracy in action.
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1070. breald
Quoting Chicklit:
East coast blob


Chicklit, is there anything to that blob?
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Quoting Jeff9641:
This blog is very democratic I tell you. So many try to jam GW talk down our throat. No matter what anyone's reasoning is we will still need oil.


YOU THINK.......LMAO
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Quoting DestinJeff:


lost me with "Olly" ... ??
Yeah, it's hard to type with Stan Laurel accent...
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1063. Michale
Quoting greentortuloni:


That's why I don't understand the anger from the people who do not believe that global warming is happening.


No one denies that global warming is happening.. Well, it's not anymore, but it was.. We're global cooling now..

But my point is, no one denies that there is climate change. No one with a grasp of reality, that is...

The dispute comes from what is causing it.. AGW people say that humans cause it..

Yet there are periods in the history of the planet where it was hotter, but no humans were around. At least, no industrialized humans..

So, the argument seems to be, "Well back then it was caused by something else, but NOW it's caused by humans.."

An argument that will never be known for it's logic...
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Quoting Patrap:
Dr. Masters brings the data as published to us without regard to how SOME accept or deny it. Some have the Guilt by association syndrome and wont ever think that the er, All Mighty Man can change the Face of Iracus.

We have..and we will continue to.

He worries not what the individual thinks about it,,it matters not as the data has no dog in the fight.

The warming continues and anyone who denies it..is a fool swimming in Shark Infested waters..and the Climate will bite.

It already has and will continue.

Thanks for clarifying Patrick...and I could just barely see the strings
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1060. Patrap
#1054

Thats a understatement..

I got a E-mail last week from Fla saying the Tampa area might get hit from a Major called Bonnie.


I wunder who sent dat un?

Talk about a lack of understanding..
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1059. IKE
Looks like a series of fronts will move through the Carolina's over the next week to 10 days....

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEWPORT/MOREHEAD CITY NC
334 AM EDT TUE JUL 27 2010


LONG TERM /THURSDAY NIGHT THROUGH MONDAY/...
-- Changed Discussion --
AS OF 330 AM TUESDAY...LOOKS LIKE THE NEXT FRONTAL PASSAGE WILL BE
THURSDAY NIGHT INTO EARLY FRIDAY WITH CHANCES FOR SHOWERS AND
THUNDERSTORMS. HIGH PRESSURE WILL BRING COOLER AND DRIER WEATHER TO
THE REGION MOST OF FRIDAY INTO SATURDAY WITH SOME ISOLATED STORMS
POSSIBLE LATE SATURDAY AS RETURN FLOW SETS UP LATE. UPPER
TROUGHING FROM THE GREAT LAKES REGION WILL RETROGRADE THE STRONG UPPER
RIDGE OVER THE CENTRAL US. THE TROUGH WILL ALLOW A SERIES OF WEAK
FRONTS EACH ACCOMPANIED BY SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS TO MOVE
ACROSS THE AREA NEXT WEEK. THE FIRST OF THESE FRONTS COULD AFFECT
THE AREA AS EARLY AS SUNDAY AND SUNDAY NIGHT. IF THE 00Z ECMWF IS
RIGHT THEN SUNDAY INTO SUNDAY NIGHT COULD BE WET WITH DRIER
WEATHER FOR MONDAY AND TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK.
-- End Changed Discussion --

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Exactly Storm...We have too many other products that use some form of petroleum byproduct to manufacture. We can greatly reduce how much we use, though.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Wow this blog has gone crazy today. Good Morning TampaSpin! Good day forn the Rays first no hitter for that franchise.


Hey Jeff....Good Morning there MY FRIEND! Was a great game that i for some reason did not go too....can't believe i did not go and missed a NO HITTER.....Sorta like the Bloggers missing a point.....LOL
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Quoting Patrap:
Most who cant fathom or understand the dilemma we face ,,will tend to trend towards dismissing what they cant understand..nor choose to.



We can continue to ruin the Biosphere,,and Fla who want not to see Rigs from their coastline,but they still want them Fossil Fuel SUV's to bring dem pink lil Families to their beaches in them.

So when the next well washes oil up on yer Sugar Beaches.


Don't Whine,...




Remember..the choice is ours to make.

Old men and Oil..are well in control.

Not Gubments nor Countries who assume they are.


Heh heh heh......you tell em Pat.

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Quoting StormW:
Even with alternative energy, still gonna need oil.


Sure...but the idea is that we'll need less of it. And like I and others have been saying: knowing that we'll still need FF for some time to come is absolutely no excuse for maintaining the current oil/coal paradigm. The time to argue about that is long past; we need to move on to better things, or live with the consequences of our inaction. It's really that simple...
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Quoting Patrap:
Most who cant fathom or understand the dilemma we face ,,will tend to trend towards dismissing what they cant understand..nor choose to.



We can continue to ruin the Biosphere,,and Fla who want not to see Rigs from their coastline,but they still want them Fossil Fuel SUV's to bring dem pink lil Families to their beaches in them.

So when the next well washes oil up on yer Sugar Beaches.


Don't Whine,...




Remember..the choice is ours to make.

Old men and Oil..are well in control.

Not Gubments nor Countries who assume they are.
Nice modify Patrick...I thought you were drunk already when you first posted that...LOL
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Quoting CJ5:


What makes you think we are not doing that? What makes you think scientists and entrepenuers are not waking up everyday looking to make something work? What makes you think corporations are not spending billions to find ways to make billions?

The fact is, they are, every single day.


That's why I don't understand the anger from the people who do not believe that global warming is happening. It's an opportunity to make money and free America from foreign oil dependence. Personally I don't care what myth gets us free from oil.
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Quoting DestinJeff:


Hey, if you don't like people that are not Jeff Masters telling other people that are also not Jeff Masters to take their opinion somewhere else besides Jeff Master's blog, then by all means you can go somewhere else.

This is how we roll.
My point exactly Olly...
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Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
1046. angiest
Quoting DestinJeff:


's are hip / I really dig those styles they wear ...


LOL
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1045. Michale
Quoting CJ5:


What makes you think we are not doing that? What makes you think scientists and entrepenuers are not waking up everyday looking to make something work? What makes you think corporations are not spending billions to find ways to make billions?

The fact is, they are, every single day.


I already have the perfect idea.

A small box shaped device, based on Lantean technology. It draws power from sub-space and can generate all power for a 22-room mansion for 89.26 thousand years..

I just haven't worked out the details yet. :D
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1043. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Recon data never suggested Alex was a major hurricane, despite the satellite estimates. As I said at the time, if Alex had a few more hours over water it would've been a major hurricane. However I would've set Alex's peak intensity to 95ts.

92L could have gone either way. It is hard to say if it really ever had a closed LLC for certain, even though it did have adequate organization.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
1040. Patrap
Dr. Masters brings the data as published to us without regard to how SOME accept or deny it. Some have the Guilt by association syndrome and wont ever think that the er, All Mighty Man can change the Face of Iracus.

We have..and we will continue to.

He worries not what the individual thinks about it,,it matters not as the data has no dog in the fight.

The warming continues and anyone who denies it..is a fool swimming in Shark Infested waters..and the Climate will bite.

It already has and will continue.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NttyGrtty:
Could we please have one more person who is not Jeff Masters tell someone else who also isn't Jeff Masters to take their opinion somewhere else besides Jeff Master's blog?


LOL....good one.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
92L, Hurricane Alex, and pre-99L when it was in the BOC should be mentioned in Post Analysis.. 95L is still in question. It's an arguable mater if it was tropical enough. If Patrap lived there and experienced the invest, and says it was bad, I think they should upgrade it to a TD.. This would make 2 unclassified TDs and a possible upgrade to Major Hurricane Alex at landfall.
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1034. Patrap
Most who cant fathom or understand the dilemma we face ,,will tend to trend towards dismissing what they cant understand..nor choose to.



We can continue to ruin the Biosphere,,and Fla who want not to see Rigs from their coastline,but they still want them Fossil Fuel SUV's to bring dem pink lil Families to their beaches in them.

So when the next well washes oil up on yer Sugar Beaches.


Don't Whine,...




Remember..the choice is ours to make.

Old men and Oil..are well in control.

Not Gubments nor Countries who assume they are.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.